Only is absolutely wonderful. A great Canadian film!
Starring Jacob Switzer, Elena Hudgins Lyle
Directed by Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds
4 stars (out of 5)
By Andrea Warner
From its simple title to its familiar premise (couple meets and has just one day together), Only has been called Before Sunset for the tween set. It’s a valid comparison, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the film’s real accomplishment: a Canadian indie that is understated, natural, bittersweet, and hopeful.
Twelve-year-old Daniel (Jacob Switzer) is an only child whose hippie parents operate a motel in rural Ontario. Vera (Elena Hudgins Lyle) is 13 years old and staying at the motel en route to Brampton with her dysfunctional parents. Together, the two wander through the snow — bright spots of coloured toques, scarves, and knee-high boots leaving a trail of footprints all over the town and surrounding woods.
As normal kids toeing the line between innocence and adulthood and forced to make up for their parents’ shortcomings, Switzer and Lyle are revelations. They make nuanced choices to reflect children with vivid imaginations who are used to entertaining themselves and bearing their burdens alone.
Only is the first joint production between filmmakers Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds, who also co-star as both sets of parents. The writer/director/producer duo ensure that Daniel and Vera are never talked down to or dismissed. They trust their young actors to improvise, enriching the film’s authenticity. But most significantly, they use long tracking shots to follow the children from a distance and swoop in periodically for close ups, relying on the landscape’s natural beauty to convey the lonely but often magical quality of small-town living.